Working for People with Sight Loss

Policy & Submissions

1.    Public Transport 

An NCBI service user standing at a bus stop waiting for a bus to come

Rural & Urban transport

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) signed by Ireland, supports the right of people with disabilities to travel independently.
  • NCBI continues to argue that people who are living with sight loss, regardless of their location, should have access to suitable public transport to support independent living.
  • These services should support a person living with sight loss to access essential services, such as education and employment, and access to wider amenities that can have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing such as local parks, walking trails, and public spaces for socializing.
An NCBI service user walking through a Luas carriage before he takes a seat

Accessible signage and audio announcements

  • Accessible information is a key component of journey planning for people who are blind or vision impaired.
  • NCBI emphasizes that all public transport providers must ensure timely, reliable, audible, and accurate announcements are in operation at all times on public transport.
  • These announcements should let passengers know the direction of travel, the name of the next station, and any relevant location-specific information.
  • It is essential that the service includes accessible, large print signage to assist people who are blind or vision impaired, as well as ensuring live travel information screens are present and in operation.
  • Travel information, ticket booking, and timetables must all be available online and on mobile apps. These websites and apps must meet the international accessibility guidelines to ensure they are compatible with any assistive technology that may be used.

2.    Health 

An NCBI community resource worker working with a service user with the help of a vision chart

Waiting Lists

  • NCBI continues to highlight that lengthy waiting lists for ophthalmology appointments can result in people with sight loss experiencing a deterioration in their condition. Some may even experience irreversible damage to their vision while on a waiting list.
  • NCBI stresses the urgent need to recruit more ophthalmologists. The Irish Medical Organisation in 2019 recommended that Ireland should have 147 ophthalmologists. Currently, there are 41. More ophthalmologists would reduce the current large waiting lists.
  • These recruitments should be targeted based on need within each Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) as the length of time someone is waiting on ophthalmology care is dependent on their CHO
An NCBI ECLO pointing to information in a booklet as she speaks to a service user

ECLO

  • NCBI recognizes the urgent need for prompt access to early diagnosis and support with adapting to a life-changing condition,
  • NCBI introduced Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLOs) in 2019. ECLOs are presently based in Dublin and Cork hospitals. They provide vital practical information and emotional support for patients from the point of diagnosis onwards as well as signposting to community rehabilitation services.
  • ECLOs support clinicians by giving the ophthalmologist teams more time to focus on providing people who are blind or visually impaired with the necessary support needed.
  • NCBI is calling on Government to invest €490,000 annually to ensure the essential ECLO service is available to people living with sight loss all around Ireland.

3.    Social Protection 

An NCBI service user looking at a 20 euro note through a magnification app on a tablet

Cost of Disability Report impact on Social Welfare Supports

  • The Department of Social Protection published the Cost of Disability Report in Ireland (2021) which detailed the additional costs that would impact the cost of living with a disability such as mobility, transport, and communications, care and assistance services, equipment, aids, and appliances, and medicines.
  • NCBI have called on the Government to increase the basic social welfare rate for the Blind Pension and Disability Allowance by recognizing these additional costs. The Cost of Disability Report for people living with sight loss states this cost is €10,997 to €13,609 per annum. This highlights the urgent need for the Government to address this.
An NCBI service user getting into a small red car alongside his guide dog

Expansion of free travel scheme to people with long term eye-conditions

  • NCBI is calling on the Government to address the issue facing approximately 700 people registered as NCBI Service Users who are living with a long-term eye condition but are unable to access the Free Travel Scheme and are not eligible to drive.
  • NCBI have called on the Government to amend the Eligibility Criteria for the Free Travel Scheme to include the people in this category. This would significantly reduce the individual cost of living with sight loss and enable people to enjoy a more independent life

4.      Employment 

An NCBI service user speaking on the phone as she sits in front of a computer at her work station

 Person-centred Payment

  • NCBI has recommended the Government conduct a review of the HSE Technical Aids Grant and the Department of Social Protection’s Reasonable Accommodation Fund with a move towards the introduction of a Personal Employment Grant.
  • This grant should be made available to individuals and it should allow employees to retain their equipment should they move employers or begin working remotely.
A male NCBI service user looking at a computer screen as he carries out his work

Hybrid working environments

  • NCBI recommends that securing the equal rights of people living with a disability to work remotely would be stated within the “Government’s Remote Working Strategy”. Challenges of accessing work such as those caused by poor public transport could be reduced if remote working is made available for people living with sight loss.
  • Assisting with providing an acceptable remote working environment would require appropriate support and equipment for people living with sight loss such as screen reading devices, specific accessibility applications to provide accommodation.
A group of NCBI service users sitting in a meeting discussing their work topics for the day

Self-Employed supports Grant & Project-Based funding

  • NCBI has highlighted the negative impact of the sudden loss of statutory benefits as a real barrier in preventing people from taking the risk of starting up their own business.
  • NCBI recommends a package of tailored supports to be available for people who are living with sight loss, to be successfully self-employed. This package should include sector-specific training designed to support people who are blind or vision impaired in starting their own business/becoming self-employed.
  • NCBI strongly believes that grant or project-based funding should not be considered in full as means-tested income for the purpose of social welfare supports.

5.    Digital Accessibility 

An NCBI service user typing on a keyboard as they listen to audio through a pair of headphones

EU Web Accessibility Directive

  • NCBI believes that access to assistive technology is vital to enable people who are blind or vision impaired to live independent lives. Assistive technology can come in many forms but for technologies such as screen readers to effectively support a person living with sight loss, the website or app that they are interacting with must be fully accessible.
  • The EU Web Accessibility Directive, operational since 2020, mandates all public sector bodies to ensure their websites and apps are fully accessible. Unfortunately, many public bodies are not in full compliance with the legislation and this must be addressed.
  • The requirement for full compliance with the European Web Accessibility Directive by public sector bodies to make sure that their websites and apps are fully accessible.
  • This EU Directive is to enable people with sight loss to access websites and apps to enhance independence, for example, to book tickets for transport or concerts, apply for a job, to read information and documents, navigate their way safely in public areas with the assistance of devices.
An NCBI service user typing on a keyboard with larger keys as he listens to audio through headphones

Online applications for Social Welfare Payment

  • Completing paper-based applications forms can be a difficult process for people with sight loss yet they are still in use to access many payments e.g. Blind Pension or Disability Allowance.
  • NCBI has called on the Government for an introduction of an accessible electronic application system alongside the paper-based system, which would reduce accessibility obstacles, similar to the electronic applications that were introduced for those applying for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
A man who is wearing glasses is holding a phone up to his ear as he uses accessibility features to read his screen

Establishment of digital accessibility fund

  • NCBI has called for a Digital Accessibility fund to be created to allow for Government Departments, State Agencies, schools, and hospitals to update their websites and comply with the Government legislation regarding the EU Web Accessibility Directive.

Submissions

The Advocacy Team regularly make submissions to various public consultations, lobbying for the needs of those who are blind or vision impaired.

Some of the recent consultations we’ve responded to include:

 

If you would like any further information, please email campaigns@ncbi.ie

 

NCBI Reports

Oireachtas Briefing

Oireachtas Briefing 2019 outlines our key asks for each relevant government department.

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Oireachtas 2019 PDF

 

Minimum Essential Standard of Living

Research carried out by NCBI and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice in 2016 found the Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL) for a single adult with vision impairment costs more on a weekly basis. These findings still influence our policy recommendations to ensure income adequacy for people who are blind or vision impaired.

MESL – Executive Summary